Let me be clear on one point: Dobria Cosic was never a tragic figure, nor has he ever been defeated in the past, in spite of his unceasing flirting with fate, un-history,[1] tragedy, defeat and misery, both in literature, as well as in politics. Unfortunate are his readers, followers of his political ideas, and tragic are only those on whom this mechanism of manipulation was tried in vivo. In Kosovo and Bosnia and Herzegovina, in particular. Dobrica Cosic himself made sure things were even clearer – he recently published the umpteenth book in a row, titled: The Bosnian War. I remember well how he withdrew from the public scene at least a dozen times, his complaints about tiredness, old age, sickness, lack of understanding amongst the youth and similar issues. And yet, after each withdrawal, he would return rejuvenated, stronger, and publishing more copies than ever before. The Bosnian War confirms this once again (at least by its thirty thousand copies in the first print).

Constructing a paradox

War is his natural state. If there is no war, Cosic produces one. Furthermore, he never abandons his paradoxes. In war, he keeps talking about the peace, and in peace, about the war. We could say that paradox is exploited the most both in his political work, as well as in his writing. It is a well known fact that paradox is an important rhetorical tool to achieve higher persuasiveness of the speaker. From the very start of his career, Cosic worked on paradox, developing it to unimaginable heights. He is the paradoxical friend/overseer of the group of intellectuals from Simina street n. 7a, paradoxical writer/agent in Budapest in 1956, ambivalent visitor to the prison of Goli otok, paradoxical dissident, present/absent spirit of the Memorandum, paradoxical president (without power) of SRY, the most paradoxical member of Otpor (Resistance), paradoxically the bestselling author in an alien (to him) 20th century, almost in an alien world, which, it appears, he never understood well. However, this also hides a paradox, because it is precisely his century and his world – it is only in his books that it is represented as something alien to the author. The book The Bosnian War is grounded in Cosic’s paradox. The title includes “war”, but is allegedly dedicated to his peacekeeping ambitions, from the London Conference, to Geneva, Vance-Owen peace plan, all the way to the Dayton Agreement (“Milosevic’s capitulation”). Cosic’s most fundamental intention is to show the entire war period through the prism of his superhuman efforts, naturally, to establish peace. Of course, he never seems to be able to achieve this, but, nevertheless, his discursive narcissistic attempts to create the image of a peacemaker are doing their work. How does Cosic achieve paradox in The Bosnian War? From the first sentence he introduces us to a clash of the worlds and religions. The book, consisting of diary entries (assembled and modified at a later time), begins as a Hollywood movie, without a minute wasted. The trailer, unlike the one launched by his publisher, The Official Gazette, could look as follows: End of the XX century. The dissolution of Yugoslavia is bathed in blood. For no reason, the rights of one nation have been taken away. This nation has been proclaimed the culprit in advance. America and Europe are against this nation, with Germany in the fore. Russia, distanced from its own people, is powerless to help. But one man has the strength to fight. He, Dobrica Cosic, at the urging of his closest friends, begins a war to conquer peace and introduce law and order in this part of the world. Lives of hundreds of thousands of people will never be the same…

The dialogue with the creator

The image is being painted in broad strokes. Muslims are Ustashas, Croats – are also Ustashas, while Serbs are the victims. The participants of the Bosnian war have been marked in this way. The entire ambiance is painted with dark colors, and the only bright spot in this dark place is Cosic himself – cast in the light of hope that peace is possible, after all. This is what should draw the reader’s attention. However, if he goes down this suggested road, the reader can suffer a terrible fate. Why? For a simple reason, deriving from the paradoxically constructed image of the world. In the ray of shining hope we do not find Cosic. Where is he then? – the reader will wonder. Actually, he is everywhere around, in that dark environment which he has represented as adverse to him at the very beginning. If we overcome the initial confusion, we can read the book outside the paradoxical register of the defeated peacemaker. Only if we lift the burden of false drama, which is being constantly intensified by Cosic, can we find out what he is actually writing about. He is writing about the architecture of the war in Bosnia. He negates any type of war crime committed by Serbs in that war. Vasa Miskin street, Markale, Strpci, Srebrenica… The people he trusts the most are actually Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic. He does not have much in common with Milosevic, in whom he lost faith very quickly. He shares everything with Karadzic. He is his advisor, his mentor, his lawyer. He gives him orders. For Cosic, Mladic is the greatest general in contemporary Serbian history, a man of “beautiful intelligence”. Vance and Owen are the evil topographers of the new world order, and Bosnia is “the country of endemic hatred”. When Bosnia is concerned, he often shares the same standpoint as Tudjman: life together is not possible, and division is the most acceptable political solution. Here, Cosic frequently creates a distance, and writes in the third person, talking about himself as the creator of the hero of his books A time of Death and A time of Reign. He sometimes identifies himself with this hero in dramatic historical circumstances. Faced with the dialectics of fate which leads him to defeat, Cosic rests, in the middle of the war, on his comfy sofa in a posh Belgrade suburb and reads Montaigne. (I believe he was very pleased with this scene). He believes this to be the image of a humanist. While some unidentified “masked criminals” snatch Bosniaks from a train, he searches for the justification of events in the field, within the highest spheres of literature. All the great writers are on his side. This line of thought is characteristic of the new Serbian right. The absolute lack of the ethics of responsibility. The Bosnian War is a good example.

Opening the will

What he did not say in his book, in order not to violate his obsessive concept, Cosic said in the conclusion of his speech during the big promotion in Youth Center in Belgrade. The meaning of the paradox of all his defeats in the Bosnian war lies in the creation of the Republic of Srpska, this “much too expensive, but the one and only political and war victory of the Serbian nation in the second half of the XX century”. With this book, Cosic became part of the struggle against redefining the Dayton order established in Bosnia and Herzegovina, once again raising his voice to support the concept of life within highly built walls and in a “constant war by other means”, which, according to him, is still going on in Bosnia. However, what concerns me the most is the fact that the state-owned publisher, Official Gazette, is behind this entire publishing feat. By publishing this book in so many copies, the Official Gazette obviously wanted to send a clear message to the public. And the message is that the paradox no longer exists. Dobrica Cosic is a happy man, who finally declared his (Serbian) victory in Bosnia, after seventeen years. Furthermore, we should bear in mind that those who do not applaud this victory with enough enthusiasm could end up on the ash heap of Cosic`s un-history. Or at least in its basement.

Translated by Bojana Obradovic

Peščanik.net, 21.03.2012.


  1. Cosic`s term razistorija, undone history.

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Saša Ilić, rođen 1972. u Jagodini, diplomirao na Filološkom fakultetu u Beogradu. Objavio 3 knjige priča: Predosećanje građanskog rata (2000), Dušanovac. Pošta (2015), Lov na ježeve (2015) i 3 romana: Berlinsko okno (2005), Pad Kolumbije (2010) i Pas i kontrabas (2019) za koji je dobio NIN-ovu nagradu. Jedan je od pokretača i urednik književnog podlistka Beton u dnevnom listu Danas od osnivanja 2006. do oktobra 2013. U decembru iste godine osnovao je sa Alidom Bremer list Beton International, koji periodično izlazi na nemačkom jeziku kao podlistak Tageszeitunga i Frankfurtera Rundschaua. Jedan je od urednika Međunarodnog književnog festivala POLIP u Prištini. Njegova proza dostupna je u prevodu na albanski, francuski, makedonski i nemački jezik.

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